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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. May 22, 1907

The Government Plan of Campaign

The bureaucracy is developing its campaign against Swadeshism with a great1 rapidity and a really admirable energy and decision. Barisal was naturally the first district to be declared, and now we learn that Dacca, Mymensingh, Faridpur, Pabna, Rungpur and Tippera2, the Habiganj sub-division of the district of Sylhet and the Sudharam Thana in the district of Noakhali have also been proclaimed. Others, no doubt, will follow. All these districts have been selected for the prominence they have taken in the Swadeshi movement. It is significant also that in Backergunge3 the proclamation has been attended by a Magisterial order which forbids the carrying of lathis and sword-sticks between sunrise and sunset and the gathering of men in strength after nightfall. This can have no other effect than to prevent the Swadeshists offering an effective resistance in case of an attack being organised at night under orders from Dacca; for it is not likely that a lawless mob bent upon mischief would pay any heed to the Magisterial ukase. Meanwhile we have seen at Tangail a foreshadowing of the first line of attack on the Students under cover of the Risley Circular. The objective of the authorities is clear enough. It is to prevent the promulgation and organisation of the Swadeshi and Swaraj sentiment in Punjab and Bengal. In the promulgation of Swadeshism we have used three great instruments, the Press, the Platform and the students. The Press by itself can only popularise ideas, it cannot impart that motive impulse of deep emotion and enthusiasm which is given by the direct appeal, the personal magnetism of a born speaker. But the work of the Platform in its turn is not sufficient in itself. The motive impulse created by the orator is apt to be evanescent, unless it is confirmed by daily insistence on the note sounded, and the inspiring sight of the idea being actually carried into practice by devout and enthusiastic missionaries of the creed. In the Swadeshi agitation this part, the most important and necessary of the three, has been played by the students. It is they who have been the active missionaries of Swadeshism, carrying it into practice with the divine ardour and eagerness of youth, without the reserves of caution, temporising, doubt, half-belief with which colder age would have killed it in its birth; wherever they went, they have created a permanent Swadeshi atmosphere in which the tender plant of Nationalism could grow, could put forth leaf and bud, could flower into the religion of patriotism.

The English have a long experience in the art of political agitation and it could not take them long to discover where the strength of the agitation lay. But they were for a long time at a loss how to deal with it without losing their prestige and reputation as a strong and benign Government. They tried experiments and would not carry them out to the end. They took up a policy of direct and violent coercion in a limited area and then, alarmed at the noise and opposition created, dropped it like a hot coal. Next they tried the effect of a general attitude of “sympathy” and calm toleration covering with its specious and ample cloak a great deal of petty local persecution and secret undermining of Swadeshism. Meanwhile they were preparing the ground for an anti-Hindu campaign through the instrumentality of the Mahomedans which was only to be brought into use if the policy of “sympathy” failed. The policy of sympathy did fail and the local authorities were allowed to let loose the Mahomedan mob on the Hindus. Here again there was a failure or a very partial success. The first attempt at Comilla miscarried owing to the high spirit and good organisation of Comilla Swadeshism. The second blow at Jamalpur fell with tremendous effect, but the additional outbreak on the 27th upset the official apple-cart. It went much farther, probably, than was originally intended; for, possibly, the original intention was simply to teach the Swadeshi Hindus a lesson and perhaps to give an excuse for exceptional measures. But the second outbreak went too far. It drove the Hindus out of Jamalpur, it identified the officials publicly and unmistakably with the hooligans, it lit a fire that spread all over Bengal and created a commotion throughout India; it gave a stupendous impulse to the self-defence movement all over the province; it found a few scattered Akharas and left the whole Hindu population feverishly drilling and standing on guard. Finally, it threatened to imperil Anglo-Indian trade by prolonging the disturbances into the critical part of the jute season. Moreover, the attempt of the officials to isolate Swarajism in East Bengal had failed. Swarajism had set fire to the Punjab, it had begun to permeate the United Provinces, it was spreading with great rapidity in Madras. Another year and the whole of India would have been submerged.

It was these circumstances, apparently, which led the Government to the resolution of grappling with the Frankenstein monster Lord Curzon had raised and of deploying all the powers and instruments of despotism for its suppression. The panic created by the Rawalpindi disturbance has only led it to unmask its batteries sooner and concentrate all its fire on Swadeshism with greater energy and rapidity than might otherwise have been the case. No direct attempt has yet been made to silence the Press, but we have no doubt it will be done, if the Government find that the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai does not produce a permanent change in its tone. On the other hand, very effective measures have been taken against the platform. The wholesale arrests in Rawalpindi, the monstrous charges brought against Lala Hansraj and others for no worse offence than being present at a public meeting which happened to be followed in point of time by a riot, the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai are all measures of intimidation against the platform. Lest these should prove insufficient, the bureaucracy has armed itself with powers which, if carefully used, will put an end to Swadeshi propaganda from the platform and can in any case crush it by violent and persistent coercion. It is applied, on the familiar principle of localising opposition and crushing it in detail, to East Bengal and Punjab only, but can easily be extended, should occasion arise. Finally, by the Risley Circular it is sought to strike out of the hands of Nationalism its chief strength, the young and rising generation whose political activity in their student days means the creation of a new race of men whom it will be impossible to rule by despotic methods. If we submit, therefore, to these bureaucratic measures it means that the three potent instruments of our movement will be rendered useless for our purposes and Swadeshism is at an end. The bureaucracy will necessarily wait to see how we take its attack. If we submit, they will not incur unnecessary odium by pressing the measures too hard but will hold them in terrorem over us and apply them lightly wherever necessary. If we try to carry on the movement, they will carry on the campaign of Russianism to the bitter end, regardless of ulterior consequences, unless the developments are such as to convince them that the Russian method is useless or worse. Meanwhile, as is shown by the deputation of Mr. Beatson Bell to Mymensingh, efforts will be made to get the Mahomedan outbreak under control again, if for nothing else than in the interests of jute. The Anglo-Indian cry of “jute in danger” is one which cannot be ignored. Until the gathering in of the jute, there will probably be no farther Mahomedan turbulence except in sporadic instances. What will happen afterwards will depend much on the course of events between. We may also expect other attempts besides the mere application of the Risley Circular to take the sting out of the volunteer movement.

Such is the prospect before us. It is high time that we should decide how we are to meet it. Our leaders have evidently abandoned the helm and are merely sitting tight watching the stormy waters roll. So poor is our organisation that even a meeting of mofussil and Calcutta delegates to consider the crisis has not been arranged. There is a talk, we learn from the Friend of India, of an extraordinary All-India Congress at which Mr. Gokhale and some other delegates will meet in Bombay under the aegis of Sir Pherozshah Mehta to protest against these new settled facts. All this will not help us and we must find out our own salvation. We shall devote the next few days to expressing our own opinion of the possibilities before us and we earnestly invite the attention and opinion of our readers upon them, if they agree with us that there is still room for the open agitation for which we have always stood and which we still advocate.


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: with great


2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Tipperah


3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bakarganj